Reframing Public Health in Wartime: From the Biomedical Model to the “Wounds Inside”
This article traces the research trajectory of the Institute of Community and Public Health (ICPH) at Birzeit University, whose work focuses on life and health outcomes for Palestinians living in chronic warlike conditions under Israeli settler-colonial rule. Over decades of field-based work, ICPH researchers came to the realization that medicalized responses to trauma contributed to concealing the social and political meaning that Palestinians attribute to their collective experience. By adopting an approach that linked the biological/ biomedical sphere to the political sphere through the concept of suffering, and exposing the sociopolitical conditions of life and the collective trauma inducing nature of Israeli military occupation and repression, ICPH’s research has allowed for the simultaneous personalization of war and politicization of health. In addition to discussing some of the health problems identified by ongoing investigations, the article also touches on the ways in which institution building and research production are linked to the capacity of Palestinians to endure and resist violation in their struggle for justice.